"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's Good to be a Man

There is a video making the rounds on social networking. I've seen it on at least three Facebook Friends' news feeds. The three-minute trailer previews a documentary called 'The Mask You Live In.' Here is a link. I strongly recommend watching it:

The Mask You Live In

The trailer is heavy on questions and grievance and almost wholly lacking in answers. But hey, it is a trailer. Its job is to make us interested. Perhaps I'm still a bit miffed at a recent clip about how The Wizard of Oz is so much more edifying than Star Wars. Perhaps I'm just addicted to being the guy in the room who says, "Hey wait a minute." But I have a misgiving about the above trailer.

For the sake of being catchy, which all good trailers are, this one demonizes the phrase, "Be a man." Now, it may be that when the full documentary is released, a more nuanced discussion of the phrase will be included. It may be that the filmmakers are only intending to demonize certain contexts in which the phrase "Be a man" gets used with belligerence. So let me just say I look forward to seeing the full documentary in time. It looks promising. It looks worthy. Still...

I am at a point in life where one of my regrets is some of the times I have in effect apologized for being a man: apologized for my incessant sex drive; apologized for my affinity for power; apologized for wanting to beat my chest rather than compromise or cooperate. In short, apologized for the way I was born. I'm just saying that men, men of all orientations and inclinations, have some justification for singing out Gaga-style, "Baby, I was born this way." And yes, not everything about the way I was born is ideal or immune from criticism and reshaping. Still...

I think we need to have regular, serious discussions about what it means to "be a man." But I am not interested in wholesale demonizing of the phrase. I would rather seek to elevate the phrase through discussion, through refining our definition of manhood. I am speaking of making sure the discussion is about channeling men's nature and not stifling it.

There are times, probably most of the time, when what I need is a thoughtful discussion of my traits and how I can refine them. But I can also think of times when what I've needed most is a kick in the ass, or someone putting their hands firmly on my shoulders and saying bluntly, 'Don't chicken out' or 'Be tough.' Such interventions may be abrupt and unapologetic. They may sting at first. But they often come from good men trying to pull struggling men out of the proverbial mud that covers so much of this dangerous world. If we can settle on a worthy definition of manhood, I think the phrase "Be a man" will often be the right advice to give.

I wish the film team at The Representation Project the best on the completion of The Mask You Live In.


  1. I had a comment, a long good one, but it just lost it! So I'll just say that I really like this post!

  2. I hate lost comments! Especially from people who like the post!
    Thanks for reading, Wrylon.